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Nick Dow Nick Dow
Album: On Track:The Very Best Of Nick Dow
Label: Old House
Tracks: 13
Website: No website or social media

Nick himself views On Track as a logical progression to place his most-requested songs on one CD, thus giving him time to take stock before disappearing into the studio and making a new album. The selections are culled from albums Nick made between 2012 (My Love You've Won To Keep - four tracks) and 2015 (The Devil In The Chest - two tracks), and include five from Old England's Ground (2013) and two from Unaccompanied (2014), so there's a strong sense of unity and identity in the collection as a whole, reflecting Nick's consistent, reliable and steadfast musical personality.

For those not familiar with Nick, you need to know that he's a really good singer, with a full and firm, rich timbre and a robust, assured and melodious delivery that really casts a spell (he learned his craft direct from the travelling folk); you can tell that he really inhabits each and every song he chooses to sing.

Four of the collection's 13 tracks (The Nightingale, The Hare's Lament, Her Jolly Roving Tar and The Irish Girl) are performed a cappella, the rest with Nick's own sensitive yet sturdy and clear-sighted guitar playing; disc finale Blue Mountain (learnt face to face from Jody Stecher many years ago) has a nice loose, rolling session feel, with four trusty mates providing musical and vocal accompaniment. Of course, you miss the artful storytelling that's so integral a part of his live act, but at least the liner notes, reproduced from the original albums, present the all-important diligently researched information regarding his sources. All of the songs are traditional in origin, with the exception of The Faithful Horse by Tom Walsh (a particular favourite among the travelling community).

The tracklist contains several songs whose titles will be familiar to most readers - e.g. Through Bushes And Briars, The Blacksmith, The Rosebud In June, The Nightingale - but although Nick invariably presents his own personal take on these songs, he's equally invariably both inspired by, and highly respectful of, tradition, taking great care in his research and collecting activities then subsequently in finding the optimum presentation of the material.

His method and attitude is an object lesson indeed. Unless you already own most or all of Nick's recent CDs, this excellent collection is self-recommending. While there will be folks who might be tempted to argue tenuously about one or other inclusion or exclusion, there's no argument that the disc surely contains a full baker's dozen of his best performances and/or best-loved songs (though I'm still waiting for his magnificent account of The Three Gypsies to make it onto disc!). The CD is available from Nick for just £7.50 (Paypal to sales@gypsy-wagons.com).

David Kidman